« AnteriorContinuar »
how the person has been deceived, he must suppose a degree of information very different from, and a species of character very heterogeneous to, his own; a process which diminishes surprise, and consequently pleasure. In the above-mentioned story of the Irishman overlooking the man writing, no person of ordinary sagacity can suppose himself betrayed into such a mistake ; but he can easily represent to himself a kind of character that might have been so betrayed. There are some bulls so extremely fallacious, that any man may imagine himself to have been betrayed into them; but these are rare: and, in general, it is a poor contemptible species of amusement; a delight in which evinces a very bad taste in wit.
Whether the Irish make more bulls than their neighbours is, as we have before remarked, not a point of much importance; but it is of considerable importance that the character of a nation should not be degraded; and Mr. Edgeworth has great merit in his very benevolent intention of doing justice to the excellent qualities of the Irish. It is not possible to read his book, without feeling a strong and a new disposition in their favour. Whether the imitation of the Irish manner be accurate in his little stories we cannot determine; but we feel the same confidence in the accuracy of the imitation, that is often felt in the resemblance of a portrait of which we have never seen the original. It is no very high compliment to Mr. Edgeworth's creative powers, to say, he could not have formed any thing, which was not real, so like reality; but such a remark only robs Peter to pay Paul; and gives every thing to his powers of observation, which it takes from those of his imagination. In truth, nothing can be better than his mile) tion of the Irish manner: It is first-rate painting.
Edgeworth and Co. have another faculty in great perfection. They are eminently masters of the pathos. The Firm drew tears from us in the stories of little Dominick, and of the Irish beggar who killed his sweetheart: Never was any grief more natural or simple. The first, however, ends in a very foolish way;
formosa superne Desinit in piscem.
We are extremely glad that our avocations did not call us from Bath to London, on the day that the Bath coach conversation took place. We except from this wish the story with which the conversation terminates; for as soon as Mr. Edgeworth enters upon a story he excels.
We must confess we have been much more pleased with Mr. Edgeworth in his laughing and in his pathetic, than in his grave and reasoning moods. He meant, perhaps, that we should; and it certainly is not very necessary that a writer should be profound on the subject of bulls. Whatever be the deficiencies of the book, they are, in our estimation, amply atoned for by ...] merits; by none more, than that lively feeling of compassion which pervades it for the distresses of the wild, kind-hearted, blundering poor of Ireland.
ACCOUNT OF SIERRA LEONE. (E. Review, 1804.)
An Account of Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone. To which is added, An Account of the present State of Medicine among them. By THoMAs WINTERBottom, Physician to the Colony of Sierra Leone. Hatchard, Piccadilly. Vol. I.
IT appears from the Preface of this book, that the original design of Dr. Winterbottom was to write only on the medical knowledge of the Africans in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone; but as he had lived among them some time in quality of physician to the colony, and had made many observations on the genius and manners of the various African nations which surround it, it was thought fit (i. e. profitable) that he should write one volume for general, and one for therapeutic readers.-The latter has not yet come to our hands. The former we have read with pleasure. It is very sensibly and agreeably drawn up; and the only circumstance we regret is, that, upon the whole, it must be rather considered as a compilation from previous writers, than as the result of the author's experience: not that he is exactly on a footing with mere com. pilers; because every account which he quotes of scenes to which he is familiar, he sanctions by his authority; and, with the mass of borrowed, there is a certain portion of original matter. It appears also, that a brother of the author, in company with a Mr. Watt, penetrated above 400 miles into a part-of Africa totally unknown to Europeans; but there are very few observations quoted from the journal kept in this excursion; and the mention of it served for little more than to excite a curiosity which is not gratified by further communication. By the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, Mr. Winterbottom means the windward coast, or that portion of the western shore of Africa which extends from the river Senegal to the latitude of nearly 5 degrees north, where the coast quits its easterly direction, and runs away to the south, or a little to the east of south.
The whole of this coast is inhabited by a great number of independent nations, divided by different shades of barbarism, and disputed limits of territory, plunged in the darkest ignorance and superstition, and preyed upon by the homicide merchants of Europe. The most curious passage in this section of the work, is an extract which Mr. wo. has given us from a report made to a Committee of the House of Commons o the Directors of the Sierra Leone Company; and which (as we conjecture, from Dr. Winterbottom's mode of expressing himself, it has never been printed) we shall extract from his book.
“A remarkable proof,' say the Directors, ‘exists in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, of the very great advantages of a permanent, though very imperfect, system of government, and of the abolition of those African laws which make slavery the punishment of almost every offence. Not more than seventy years ago, a small number of Mahommedans established themselves in a country about forty miles to the northward of Sierra Leone, called from them the Mandingo Country. As is the practice of the professors of that religion, they formed schools in which the Arabic language and the doctrines of Mahomet were taught: and the customs of Mahommedans, particularly that of not selling any of their own religion for slaves, were adopted; laws founded on the Koran were introduced; those practices which chiefly contribute to depopulate were eradicated; and, in spite of many intestine convulsions, a great comparative idea of civilisation, unity, and security, was introduced : population, in consequence, was rapidly increased; and the whole power of that part of the country in which they are settled has gradually fallen into their hands. Those who have been taught in their schools are succeeding to wealth and power in the neighbouring countries, and carry with them a considerable portion of their religion and laws; other chiefs are adopting the names assumed by these Mahommedans, on account of the respect with which it is attended; and the religion of Islem seems to diffuse itself peaceably over the whole district in which the colony is situated, carrying with it those advantages which seem ever to have attended its victory over African superstition.’
Agriculture, though in a rude infant state, is practised all along this coast of Africa. All the lands must be strictly appropriated in a country, and the greater part cultivated, before any can be cultivated well. Where land is of little value, it is cheaper and better to till it slightly than perfectly; or rather, perfection, under such circumstances, consists in idleness and neglect. The great impediment to be removed from the fresh land which the Africans mean to cultivate, are those troublesome weeds called trees; which are first cut down, and then with the grass, set fire to at a particular season of the year. This operation is performed when the Pleiades, the only stars they observe, are in a certain position with respect to the setting sun. At that season the fires are seen rolling in every direction over the parched and inflammable herbage; and the blazing provinces are discerned at an immense distance in the night by ships approaching the coast. At this period of arson, it is not safe to travel without a tinder-box; for, if a traveller is surprised by the pursuit of the flame, his only safety consists in propagating the same evil before, by which he is menaced behind; and, in trudging on amidst the fiery hyphen, multiplying destruction in order to avoid it. The Foolahs, who seem to have made the greatest advances in agriculture, are, however, still ignorant of the use of the plough, though Dr. Winterbottom is quite persuaded they might easily be taught to use cattle for that purpose.
‘There came,’ says the Doctor, “during my residence at the colony, a chief of considerable importance, from the river Gambia, attracted by curiosity, and a desire of information. The man, whose appearance instantly announced a mind of no common cast, was so much struck with what he saw there, that before he went away he engaged in his service two of the most ingenious mechanics in the colony, one of whom, a carpenter, among other things, was to make a plough, and the other was to teach his people the art of training oxen for the draught, and fixing them to the yoke. For a further account of this person, see the Report of the Directors of the Sierra Leone Company. London, 1795.’
It is curious to remark, that where any instance of